The U.S. military believes Chinese President Xi Jinping may not have full command over the aggressive tactics his military routinely carries out against the U.S. and Pacific neighbors, a senior U.S. naval intelligence officer said Wednesday, according to Breaking Defense.
Chinese security forces, including the People’s Liberation Army, its maritime component and paramilitary groups, use so-called “gray zone” tactics, like dangerous intercepts, to bully and intimidate adversaries. While such incidents have increased in danger and frequency over recent years, Xi and members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) politburo may not be fully aware of all of their activities, Rear Adm. Mike Studeman, commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence, said, Breaking Defense reported.
“We have strong indications that Xi Jinping — and I’m an intelligence guy — Xi Jinping is not aware of everything his security forces are doing,” Studeman said, Breaking Defense reported.
“The truth doesn’t always flow very quickly in the dictatorships, and if it’s bad news, sometimes that gets adulterated on the way up to [the top]. We see some of that happening,” he added. (RELATED: Putin, Xi Discuss New World Order During Moscow Meeting)
For example, Chinese Navy vessels often harass U.S. Navy patrols through the South China Sea, Studeman said, according to Breaking Defense. The U.S. conducts regular freedom of navigation operations through the South China Sea to reinforce international laws guaranteeing passage through the disputed waters, but China opposes the U.S. military presence in the region and intercepts U.S. assets in a manner deemed unsafe on an increasingly frequent basis.
Such “gray zone” tactics fall below the threshold to qualify as an act of war but still function to coerce targets of grey zone activities and can include cyber, economic and informational manipulation as well as use of proxy forces, according to the Pentagon.
A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon transited the Taiwan Strait in international airspace on Feb. 27, 2023 (local time).
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Studeman referenced a July incident where a Chinese fighter jet dispersed a cloud of metal chaff in front of an Australian P-8 spy plane, clogging the aircraft’s engines, according to Breaking Defense.
Similar instances have occurred with U.S. assets; a Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to a U.S. aircraft conducting a reconnaissance mission through international airspace over the South China Sea on Dec. 21. In response, Beijing said the U.S. practice of conducting “close-in” surveillance posed a danger to China’s national security.
Ships belonging to a Chinese maritime militia have rammed fishing vessels operating out of Vietnam and the Philippines and assaulted them with water cannons, Studeman added.
“We think it’s a function of the unwieldiness of China’s governance model. There are dangers of dictatorships,” he said, according to the outlet.
China deployed an aircraft carrier strike group in the waters near Taiwan’s southeast coast on Wednesday ahead of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen’s meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California that the U.S. and Taiwan view as a demonstration of democratic solidarity. Beijing threatened unspecified retaliation if Tsai, who opposes Chinese Communist Party rule, followed through with the planned meeting with McCarthy.
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